- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

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McAlester News-Capital, Dec. 14, 2014

More information needed

An accused killer on the loose.

This scary scenario unfolded right here in McAlester Wednesday morning, but you might have never known about it if we at the News-Capital weren’t asking questions. Remarkably, by late Wednesday morning - nearly 14 hours after slaying suspect Robert Long, 28, walked away from the minimum- security Jackie Brannon Correctional Center Tuesday night - there was still no press release, phone call, emails or any other information released to the media by any public agency in southeast Oklahoma regarding the matter. No state or local official we know of said a peep about a murder suspect possibly roaming the streets of McAlester, sticking his thumb up alongside the road to hop a ride out of town with you…or worse.

Unacceptable.

It’s completely, totally intolerable to leave the public in the dark on something like this. Here’s why - people charged with murder just might, you know, have a tendency to lean a little to the violent side, and running away from a custody situation like Long’s, with a murder rap hovering, might make one desperate. History is filled with plenty of examples of suspected killers on the lam leaving trails of blood in their wakes.

Fortunately, the worst case scenario didn’t happen this time with Long’s apprehension Thursday night. But who is to say it couldn’t have? In a community housing the worst of the worst at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, we deserve better. We know our public servants in corrections and law enforcement have their hands full with limited resources, and we support them fully in their difficult, never-ending task of keeping the public safe, but the moment something like a murder suspect escape happens we need to know about it, and sooner versus later.

For the record, when we at the newspaper first heard Long had walked away from Jackie Brannon, we called the Oklahoma Department of Corrections on Wednesday morning. We learned he’d been housed at the minimum security prison, that he didn’t show for an evening inmate headcount, and he was in custody on drug and weapons charges.

But a DOC spokesman never mentioned during the conversation that, oh by the way, he’s charged with murder. It was only after we received a text about Long’s history, then called back that the DOC confirmed Long is in fact a murder suspect in Comanche County.

Why didn’t the DOC tell us he was charged with murder?

Apparently because we didn’t ask about something we knew nothing about.

How ridiculous.

The good news is this was a learning experience. After this debacle, the prison worked with Pittsburg County Emergency Management to push out a phone notification to pretty much everyone in the county about Long’s apprehension.

Good for them.

We commend the changes made to fix this week’s obvious failure. Doing so may one day save someone’s life.

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The Lawton Constitution, Dec. 14, 2014

Support expressed; future unknown

The overflow crowd of Lawtonians who attended a meeting last week in Kerwin Hall at Fort Still was impressive. The community leaders expressed their views at an Army Force Structure and Listening Session. The views were concerning possible cuts at the Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill, where as many as 6,000 soldiers and 800 civilian jobs may be cut because of Army downsizing.

Based on what was published, it was apparent that Col. Tom O’Donoghue from the Department of Army Military Operations Directorate of Force Management received a balanced, realistic briefing. The presentations were detailed, thorough and impressive.

What we don’t know is where do Fort Sill’s artillery training missions fit in the minds of Army and Department of Defense planners. It’s all very unsettling. Sharing insight with those of us who live and work south of Roger’s Lane is important, too.

Meanwhile, Lawton exists to support Fort Sill, one of the largest employers in the state. The community’s No. 1 goal is the willingness to assist Fort Sill and Army missions in every way possible.

We hope that message was better received than all the doom and gloom.

Where does Fort Sill fit in the future? Are new weapons about to be produced and are Fort Sill’s ranges suitable for training? Lawton has many strengths, and that message is important for attracting Army and private investments. Among them:

- That Lawton is the best, least expensive, cost-effective location on the globe to accomplish the Army’s missions.

- It has good common and technical schools, medical services and universities to serve soldiers and families.

- It has a gold mine of active and retired expertise that, when asked, is eager to accept challenges to produce ideas to turn the tide in battle.

- The Army will get more bang for it budget dollars when re-aligning its force structure to Fort Sill, because history shows the community vigorously supports soldiers and the Army team. Since the 1860s, Lawton has overwhelming supported soldiers and missions from the cavalry through the birth of Army aviation to modern-day fires support.

That’s apparently similar to the script that retired Maj. Gen. Toney Stricklin presented to the Base Realignment and Closure commission at San Antonio, Texas. He sold Fort Sill’s strengths to the commission. His presentation led to the return of the Air Defense Artillery School from Fort Bliss to Fort Sill.

The BRAC decision brought a $1 billion investment to Southwest Oklahoma.

We hope that Col. O’Donoghue will realize that Lawton and Oklahoma have, can and will do everything possible to assist soldiers and help Army leaders remake, re-invent, reconfigure, re-equip or retrain the Army of the future as needed. Just tell us how we can assist.

Lawton’s goal is to the make Fort Sill the most important, go-to post in the Army.

Yes, Lawton is hungry for another $1 billion investment.

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Tulsa World

Tom Coburn’s farewell, Dec. 13, 2014

Sen. Tom Coburn called on the nation’s lawmakers to rededicate themselves to freedom, Constitutional duties and respect for minority opinions during an emotional farewell speech on the U.S. Senate floor Thursday.

Coburn, easily the state’s most popular elected official, will step down from office at the end of the year, two years before the end of his term.

His farewell address called on senators to adhere strictly to the limitations of the Constitution, arguing that liberty is diminished whenever Congress oversteps its bounds.

“I truly believe that freedom gains us more than anything we can plan up here,” Coburn said.

He reminded senators of their oath to support and defend the Constitution and said it forces them to look at issues from a strictly national perspective.

“Your state isn’t mentioned one time in that oath,” Coburn said. “It’s nice to be able to do things for your state, but that isn’t our charge. Our charge is to protect the future of our country.”

It was a humble, high-minded and patriotic speech, and it’s hard to imagine anyone disputing most of it.

He made reference to the one-man stands he often made against popular bills. Those efforts earned him a national reputation and a nickname, “Dr. No.”

The individual conscience of a senator must be given its due authority, Coburn insisted Thursday.

“The magic number (in the Senate) isn’t 60. It’s not 51, a majority,” Coburn said “The most important number in the Senate is: One. One Senator. That’s how it was set up.”

By empowering individual senators, Senate traditions prevent the tyranny of the majority and force compromise, he said.

It was a powerful message that brought Coburn’s fellow senators to their feet, applauding his dedication.

We have not always agreed with Sen. Coburn, but we’ve always respected the depth of his belief and his intellect. There are those who will be glad to see him leave the Senate, but we are not among them. Our nation needs more patriots dedicated to service and guided by principle.

Farewell, Dr. Coburn. Our nation will miss you.

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